Ray Emery turned away 31 shots in the Flyers’ Game 2 win against the Rangers in New York. Credit: Getty Images
The last time the Flyers opened a series on the road with a split they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals.
That would be 2010, of course, the year they sweep the Devils at home and Brian Boucher blanked them in Newark to finish off the series. All this prior to defeating Boston and Montreal en route to a Finals date against the Blackhawks.
Now with potentially three of the next four games in the Wells Fargo Center, momentum seems to be shifting towards Craig Berube’s team, especially since they beat the Rangers at home twice during the regular season.
The Flyers are 30-7 when they win Game 2, their last loss coming to Tampa Bay in seven games in the 2004 Conference Finals.
Sunday demonstrated that what happens in the regular season stays in the regular season. Besides, factoring in the Rangers’ 25-14-2 road mark, third best in the NHL, it’s not exactly like they disappear once they step on foreign ice.
Flyers regular season starting netminder Steve Mason says he’s improving every day from the hard hit he took from Pittsburgh’s Jason Megna but he still doesn’t feel ready to go yet. Besides, what’s the rush the way the 31-year-old Emery has performed?
"Every day, honestly, it’s a different story," said Mason, whose injury seems to have all the symptoms of a concussion. "Some days are really good and others aren’t great. Today was better. We’ll just hope tomorrow’s even better than today."
That takes the decision out of Berube’s hands.
"Ray is playing the next game," said Berube, refusing to speculate on Mason’s future status. "That’s where I’m leaving it. There’s nothing really else to talk about. The other guy is not ready, so I’m going to play the guy that is ready."
There will be no such mystery in the Rangers goal, even if Henrik Lundqvist did cough up some fat rebounds, which Flyers rookie Jason Akeson and unlikely hero defenseman Luke Schenn turned into the tying and winning goals respectively Sunday afternoon. They’ll continue to live or die with King Henrik, who’ll be making his 70th playoff appearance but first ever in Philadelphia.
The key for the Flyers is to put more sustained pressure on Lundqvist and force the Rangers mobile defenseman and speedy forwards into mistakes. That’s what enabled them to turn the game around Sunday, even though the Rangers still launched 33 shots on Emery.
Philadelphia also needs to do a better job clearing the puck out of its own zone. The Rangers’ relentless forechecking has caused turnovers and led to several high quality chances. Keep forcing the action enough and it’s bound to pay off.
Then there’s the schedule. After Tuesday night the teams will have two days off before Game 4 on Friday, then could conceivably have to play the last three games in just four days.